Residential Fire Facts

The following information has been compiled by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) regarding residential fire facts in the United States

  • Fires represent the fourth largest accidental killer in the United States behind motor vehicle accidents, falls, and drownings
  • Each year, nearly 3,000 individuals perish in a residential fire which averages out to eight (8) people a day
  • Data trends toward the majority of residential fire victims involving children and the elderly
  • While kitchen fires are the number one cause of residential fires, most residential fire fatalities start somewhere else other than the kitchen 
  • Most residential fire fatalities occur between the hours of 11:00 PM and 7:00 AM when most people are sleeping (and not wearing their hearing aids)
  • In 40% of residential fire fatality cases, a working smoke detector is present

Typical Growth of a Residential Fire

The following timeline has been issued by the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) to demonstrate how fast an average fire spreads and to quantify how much time individuals have to escape a residential fire alive

  • 0 - 30 seconds:  fire begins in home and starts to grow
  • 1 min & 04 sec:  at just over 1 minute, flames spread and smoke starts to fill room of origination; smoke detector is triggered
  • 1 min & 35 sec:  about 30 second later, temperature of room exceeds 190°F; at this point, there is still time to escape the house safely
  • 2 min & 30 sec:  temperature of room exceeds 400°F 
  • 2 min & 48 sec:  handful of seconds later, smoke quickly pours into other areas of house, increasing chances of asphyxiation or suffocation
  • 3 min & 03 sec:  temperature in room of origin is over 500°F 
  • 3 min & 20 sec:  safe escape is categorized as very difficult
  • 3 min & 41 sec:   flashover occurs whereby energy in the room suddenly spikes and ignites everything, resulting in room temperatures of 1400°F
  • 4 min & 33 sec:  flames visible from exterior of home and safe escape is categorized as very unlikely

According to most experts, plan on having no more than about 2 minutes to escape a residence once the smoke detector has been triggered.  Based on the above timeline, the premises must be vacated not much beyond the 3 minute and 3 second mark. To learn more about residential smoke detector audible signal requirements, see Residential Smoke Detector Signal Requirements